Confession: Although I’m well aware of Randall Bramblett’s myriad credits as a band member, sideman and songwriter, I never got around to listening to any of his previous eight LPs. It wasn’t until I slipped The Bright Spots into my stereo that I discovered what a huge oversight this was. On his intoxicating new work, the Jesup native and 40-year Athens resident shows himself to be an eloquent writer, a deeply soulful vocalist and a mood-inducing instrumentalist on both keyboards and sax.
The record was cut in two distinct segments—the first a series of envelope-pushing sessions in Nashville with guitarist Tom Bukovac and bassist Michael Rhodes, the second in the familiar environs of Gerry Hansen’s studio outside of Athens with his longtime band, including Hansen drumming, engineering and co-producing. Bramblett wrote the five Nashville songs to loops, after which his two collaborators added inventively offbeat aural effects. And while the Athens sessions were live off the floor, the experimental thrust of the earlier sessions spilled over into several of the remaining seven tracks.
In describing the new records standouts, I’m compelled to use reference points, which indicate the rarefied level of excellence these songs achieve. It’s easy to imagine the sardonic highway blues of “John the Baptist” as a Royal Scam-era Steely Dan cut, and lilting ballad “My Darling One” as an outtake from Rod Stewart’s Every Picture Tells a Story. There are echoes of the Atlanta Rhythm Section’s late-’70s classics in blues nocturne “Trying to Steal a Minute,” and the beguiling dreamscape “Every Saint”—framed by samples of Pygmy children at play—bears the intimate vibe of Paul McCartney’s early solo work, while the poetically soulful “Whatever That Is” moves with the grits-and-gravy strut of The Staple Singers. And Eric Clapton should waste no time covering widescreen ballad “Shine,” with its ecstatic choruses and shimmering guitar climax. But there’s no precedent whatsoever for the ardent, vividly detailed “Detox Bracelet,” which no one other than
Bramblett could’ve possibly dreamed up or delivered with such devastatingly understated ardor.
I’ll be working my way backward through the discography from here. Consider me belatedly hooked.
Photo by Nolan Terrebonne